17th March, 2014
HKSAR Gov Plans to Build “HK Zone” in China Sending Grass-root into Exile
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (CY Leung) has been driving the Hong Kong-China assimilation programme. According to confidential documents, Hong Kong SAR Government is planning to build a “Hong Kong Zone”, which is 100km square in size and bigger than Hong Kong, in Guangzhou Nansha District. On top of relocating some local industries to the new “Hong Kong Zone”, new towns with public housing and elderly homes will also be built for the grass-root Hong Kongers to relocate. Lawmaker James To Kun-sun criticised such plan as “forcing Hong Kongers to move to China”. The economic interests of “Hong Kong Zone” is estimated to come close to US$13 billion. The plan, however, is not yet announced but Leung’s allies have already begun investing heavily in the zone.
The document was drafted in November 2013 by Constitution and Mainland Affairs Bureau as requested by the Chief Executive. CMAB also consulted various bureaus on this plan. The plan, according to the document, aims at providing land to industries and facilities that require large land space, so that local lands can be freed up for other industries. The proposed location of “Hong Kong Zone” is in Nansha District in Guangzhou or Zhuhai’s Hengqin. A plot of land of 50-100km square in Nansha and 5km square in Hengqin will be rented for the zone, and the lease will not end until after 2047.
The plan proposed that industries that require large space, including recycling and columbarium niches, and some other industries included in the plan are perceived as “low value add” businesses and stirred debates on finding a suitable location for establishing these businesses in Hong Kong. The document also hinted that “Hong Kong Zone” will become an “offshore shopping mall” as it will offer services and goods that are up to Hong Kong’s standard, which will be welcomed by people in Guangdong Province.
The most controversial part of this document is probably the proposal of building public housing and elderly homes for Hong Kongers, and these buildings are planned to target the grass-root who are seen as “low value add” people. The document expected this policy will be welcomed by those who have been queuing for public housing allotment and elderly services, but at the same time, Hong Kongers will criticise such plan as a scheme to send Hong Kongers who had contributed to Hong Kong, SMEs that face operation challenges, and underprivileged people into exile, in order to free up the land in Hong Kong for large developers to build luxurious properties.
The HKSAR government also thinks that to encourage Hong Kongers and Hong Kong businesses to move to the zone, infrastructures, education, medical facilities and social benefits have to be at Hong Kong’s standard, whilst Hong Kong’s taxation and legal systems have to be adopted as well. HKSAR Government hopes to obtain full development and management rights in the zone, but given that Nansha and Hengqin are key development zones in Guangdong Province, it is expected that all the cities in China will demand HKSAR Government to adopt the Sino-Foreign Development Model that has traditionally been used. The document says that that this could cause problem.
The confidential document also pointed out that if the zone is built with public funding, it will face questions raised by the Legislative Council and other government departments. Hence, the document proposed to invite special purpose entities to lease land from Guangzhou or Zhuhai provincial governments, and the HKSAR Government will only encourage the plan to be executed. Sources in the political scene estimated that this plan could involve economic interests of close to US$13 billion.
Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai from Neo Democrats said that the plan requires substantial discussion in the society before putting in place, “would you choose to retire in China?” Fan said that a large number of old industrial and commercial buildings are not being utilised properly, and questioned if Leung came up such plan in the midst of his low popularity is to gain support from large businesses.
James To Kun-sun from Democratic Party also criticised that moving public housing and elderly homes to Guangdong is “forcing Hong Kongers to move to China! The government tells the local elderly that they have to wait for 18 years before they can get public housing or elderly services, meaning they may never receive the benefits before they pass away, but they can have it all immediately in China! If an elder is in need for such benefit, it is in a way leaving him or her with no choice but to move to China.” He said that this highlights the incompetence of the current government. He also questioned about the possibility of executing the plan: even if high speed trains connect Hong Kong with this “Hong Kong Zone” making commute easier, the cost of traveling between two places would be far too high for those who need to live in public housing. CMAB said that the government always care and proactively support Nansha’s development, and believes that Nansha and other development areas could create new platforms for the collaboration between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. However, CMAB denied that the government has any plan to rent Nansha for such project.